Louisville Forum Offers Booksellers Entre to Digital Revolution

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

On Tuesday, April 10, the American Booksellers Association held a Booksellers Forum and Education Program in conjunction with the Great Lakes Booksellers Association (GLBA) and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) at the Louisville Marriott Downtown, home of ABA's 2008 Winter Institute) in Louisville, Kentucky. The free program was facilitated by ABA COO Oren Teicher; Len Vlahos, the director of both BookSense.com and ABA's education program; and Kristen Gilligan, associate director of programming.

The day began with GLBA Vice President Carol Besse of Carmichael's Bookstore in Louisville, Kentucky, welcoming the approximately 30 attendees. The program went "really, really well," Besse said. "We had a good discussion about the ABA strategic plan and about independent booksellers getting their voice heard within the community of publishers and booksellers."

After Besse's welcome, which included a brief history on how she and husband, Michael Boggs, launched Carmichael's in 1978, Vlahos led the session "Participating in the Digital Revolution." This session explored the effects of phenomena such as digitization of content, social networking, open source, and print-on-demand on independent booksellers, today and in the future.

Jerry Brown of The Bookstore in Radcliff, Kentucky, thought the session was "excellent" and that the discussion of print-on-demand technology "really started me thinking." He noted, "It looks like not too far into the future it's going to be possible for small regional booksellers, or a group of small regional booksellers, to buy a print-on-demand operation and have it be feasible."

Brown continued, "We also talked about how traditional ways of communicating with customers don't work for reaching kids, and Mr. Vlahos gave examples of ways to reach them -- blogs, Second Life, MySpace, Web 2.0, and YouTube. You can put little videos and comments on YouTube. That's where kids go. Its got me thinking a whole different way about reaching people. The old ways don't work anymore."

Judy Parrish of Bardstown Books in Bardstown, Kentucky, said the session helped her to "get over the terror of being too old to learn." Bardstown currently does not have a web presence, but Parrish said Vlahos "reinforced the need to be online," adding that he listed many resources available to help with the move to the Internet.

Following Participating in the Digital Revolution, ABA's Teicher facilitated the Bookseller Forum & Strategic Planning Session. Over lunch, booksellers heard the latest updates on ABA's programs and initiatives. Topics covered included a discussion of ABA's Mission Statement and what criteria must be met to be an ABA core member, as well as a lively discussion of sales tax issues.

Brown said he appreciated the discussion of "whether someone selling used books could join and become a full member. I like that that's being discussed."

Following the forum, the focus was on "Buy Local First" campaigns and GLBA Holiday Catalog news and resources. GLBA Executive Director Jim Dana then welcomed attendees and talked about the regional's initiatives: a Buy Local campaign, which includes various consumer materials and "Buy Local" T-shirts for staff (available through GLBA at cost), and GLBA's subsidization of member bookstores' Holiday Catalog publication insertion costs.

Besse said that one of the main topics of the "Buy Local" discussion was how the movement is expanding and how booksellers need to include other retailers in their "Buy Local" efforts. Another topic that arose, she said, was how willing Buy Local organizations are to share all of their marketing materials and resources. She noted, "There's no need to completely reinvent the wheel." --Karen Schechner